Alumni - PhDs/PostDocs

Dr. rer. nat. Hella Schwanke, Brinkmann lab

Technische Universität Braunschweig (P01)

Hella Schwanke did her PhD at TU Braunschweig and during this time dived deeply into the molecular immune evasion mechanism elicited by the M35 protein of Murine Cytomegalovirus. She found that M35 dimers bind to regulatory DNA elements and interfere with recruitment of the cellular transcription factor interferon regulatory factor 3 (IRF3) to these sites. IRF3 is activated after viral infection by pattern recognition receptors (PRR) and is essential to induce antiviral gene expression. With methods such as RNAseq, SLAMseq, CHIP, and sophisticated bioinformatic analyses, Hella could show in tight collaboration with the DEEP-DV groups of Florian Erhard, Markus Landthaler, Lars Dölken, Adam Grundhoff, and Caroline Friedel that M35 interferes with expression of the type I interferon Ifnb1 as well as with other IRF3-dependent genes. By RNAseq analysis with cell lines generated from IRF3 and type I IFN receptor (IFNAR) KO mice, Hella could also generate a transcription atlas for IRF3- and IFNAR-specific cellular gene expression after PRR signaling. Her study is published in the Journal of Virology.

Dr. rer. nat. Denise Ohnezeit, Fischer lab

University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, UKE (P04)

Denise Ohnezeit started as a PhD student in Nicole Fischer’s group in P04, working on the manipulation of the host response by human polyomaviruses. Denise graduated in late summer 2022 and joined the labs of Angus Wilson and Ian Mohr at NYU, New York in summer 2023 as a postdoctoral researcher. There, Denise continues her passion for genome-wide analysis of the host response altered by chronic DNA viruses, now focusing on large nuclear DNA viruses.

Dr. rer. nat. Alessandro Grodziecki, Schreiner lab

Medizinische Hochschule Hannover (P08)

Organoids are three-dimensional clusters of stem cells and differentiated epithelial cells that can be cultivated in vitro from many organs, like the intestine, liver, and lung. During my PhD I generated mutants of intestinal organoids using CRISPR/Cas9 multiplexing to investigate cancer progression in a porcine model of colorectal adenocarcinoma. As a Postdoc in the Schreiner lab at the Hannover Medical School I use human organoids to study adenovirus infection and immune responses in this advanced cell culture system.
My first goal is to identify cell types that allow adenovirus replication or serve as viral reservoir in latency as proposed for adenovirus reactivation after hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). Next, the influence of cytokines on virus replication and the viral spread over between epithelial and immune cells will be investigated. The aim of my work is to reduce the risk for lethal virus reactivation in HSCT patients by proposing new treatment options for immune suppression.
The best way to relax for me is dancing.

Ramya Ramani, PhD student Brinkmann lab

Technische Universität Braunschweig (P01)

I have a long-standing interest in studying host-pathogen interactions and inflammation. My first experience was a short research project for my Master´s degree in BITS-Pilani, India, where I worked on the Apicomplexan parasite Plasmodium vivax. My Master thesis focused on the bacterium Salmonella, where I studied the role of Sirtuin2 during pathogenesis of Salmonella enterica ser. Typhimurium. This enhanced my knowledge on cellular signaling pathways and compartments that are often used by bacteria to evade the host immune response. For my PhD, I decided to explore new avenues and went to Germany to study Herpesviruses and innate immunity in Braunschweig. The fact that Herpesviruses are so well adapted and can stay conspicuous in the human body for a lifetime makes it an intriguing research area for me.
I am studying two proteins of Human Cytomegalovirus (HCMV) that exist as a complex and modulate signaling of pattern recognition receptors, thereby downregulating the innate immune response. Towards deciphering their mechanism of action, we will deploy basic molecular biology techniques, high throughput sequencing technologies and further examine the structure of the complex and its interaction partners.
Badminton is my regular sport. During my time in Braunschweig, I have developed a strong inclination to hiking in the mountains and biking activities during my leisure time.